What’s next after SEO?

Often questions that industry peers ask me resonate with me right away as they’re focused on where they are in their career, where they should go, my role over the past years, and how that has shaped what I do today.

Lately, I got asked the following questions, and I thought it would be good to go a bit deeper into it:

  • How did you get out of SEO, and what skills do you need to get there?
  • How did your previous SEO roles get you where you are today (a marketing leadership role)?

SEO is a career for many. Many (top) industry experts have climbed the career ladder on either the agency or in-house side and are at the top of their field. When I left Postmates, I knew that I didn’t want to go back into yet another SEO role, though. For me, the diversity of additional acquisition channels and marketing functions was more interesting than diving into another SEO playbook. But that’s not the case for everyone, and I want to highlight that this is my personal decision. Lately, I’ve hired for an SEO role (once) again, and it’s great to see so many people build their careers that way. In this post, I want to spend some more time giving an insight into what I think could help diversify skills to help in other areas of Marketing & Growth.

How did you get out of SEO?

  • Build a more diverse skillset. In most cases, SEOs already have to build up additional skills that can also apply to other functions. Think about: web analytics, technical skills (coding), copywriting, understanding of search behavior, CRO. You’re likely not an expert in them right away, but knowing what’s out there is just as important. It’s a matter of building up the T-shaped skills that many have written about before (This post from Rand Fishkin many years covers the concept.).
  • IC versus Management route: How do you want to grow up as a professional in your career, and when do you make those choices? None of the two options is right or wrong as they can both get you there. In many cases, after leading teams, you can also go back to being an IC again.
  • The rise on the Management track: While you grow up as a Manager, if you chose that route (not saying it’s the best route to pick), you eventually lead more people. From being responsible for one function, you can end up leading many as an executive (either on Growth or Marketing).
  • Networking: Regardless of the route you take, building out your network is always valuable. Having moved across the globe once (NL > USA), it made it even more evident that when you get somewhere new, you sometimes have to start from scratch again and can’t entirely rely on your existing network.
  • Size of Organizations: What organizational size suits you best? If you want to grow into bigger companies you might sometimes be better off picking a smaller company first and building out your skills there. The opposite works as well, big companies can give you the insight into how things operate at scale with many specialists being on your teams. If you then move back to a smaller type of organization it can help you get a better sense of what to focus on as well as you likely need to wear more hats.
  • Stage of an Organization: As I’ve spent all my career working in tech companies there is a big difference if your company is in the Seed stage versus past Series C. Teams are bigger, responsibilities are different, for not just SEO roles but for many of them. You’re working on small or long term goals depending on the stage. But it also helps you level set what is important for a career after SEO. In a company that is smoothly transitioning through the proper stages you will likely have the ability to adjust your own role over time. When I was at TNW the different stages of the company enabled me to start a marketing organization and help grow the business. Similar things have applied to my current role at RVshare which is quite different from how I started three years ago.
  • Performance versus Brand Marketing: I’ll take the stance that SEO clearly helps with performance marketing, it certainly can help brands as well but in most cases you’re going after business value by chasing keyword segments and intent from users that leads to transactions.

What skills to build? It’s up to you and the route you want to take. Leave a comment with insight into how you are making your skillset and career for a potential exit out of SEO.

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